Editor's Comment

Stand up for your right

THERE is a lot at stake in today’s elections in seven districts where voters will be deciding on who is to be the council chairperson, as well as in Lusaka in the contest for the position of mayor.There is, however, no higher stake than the consolidation of Zambia’s democracy, which will be put to another test.
The voters in these elections are key in determining whether or not Zambia is making progress as a democracy. The test is not so much about who eventually wins, but rather about the process and the free will to cast the vote.
The onus to pass the test is on the voters in newly-created districts of Chasefu, Chipangali, Kasenengwa, Lumezi, Lusangazi in the Eastern Province and Chifunabuli in Luapula, which will be installing the council chairperson in line with the new constitution.
For Lusaka and Chilanga, the voters are back to the booths to replace the deceased mayor and council chairperson respectively.
There are a further six ward elections: one in Mwense (Luapula Province), Mpulungu (Northern Province), three in North-Western Province (all in Mwinilunga) and one in Mongu, Western Province.
We expect voters in all these areas to turn up en masse to use their democratic right to vote into office people they can hold accountable for respective decisions that will be made.
There is every reason for citizens to vote where these elections have occurred because they will be making their voices heard.
With decentralisation taking root, citizens have a solemn duty of expressing their opinion on how they want local governments to run based on the manifestos espoused by the candidates and their political parties.
In a democratic dispensation such as Zambia’s, citizens should not underrate the influence voting has on the governance of the country.
Voters play a critical role in shaping the government because the outcome of the elections speaks volumes about their choices.
With candidates and political parties having been on the campaign trail for almost a month selling themselves and their ideas, voting in elections is the only way voters endorse their choice.
Democracy is enhanced when the majority of the registered voters cast their ballots in deciding who leads them.
There are some voters who may be hesitant to step forward and be part of the decision-making. This is no time to even think twice about whether to vote or not. Every registered voter must vote.
The right to vote is something that people all over the world die for. In Zambia this right was hard-earned through a long struggle that cost lives and limbs.
Surely, the efforts of Zambia’s liberation fighters was not in vain. Self-determination was earned and must be consolidated. These elections are a platform on which to exercise this self-rule.
There could also be other registered voters who might be discouraged from voting by their disappointment of the outcome of the last elections. One of the surest ways in which their disappointment will continue is by not voting this time around.
There is greater satisfaction in being part of a selection process because whatever the outcome one would be standing on firm ground to demand answers and good performance from those that are elected.
If you don’t vote, you would not be standing on firm ground to try to take your mayor, council chairperson or ward chairperson to task.
It is also heartening that the run-up to these elections has been comparatively peaceful, especially in light of the peace pact signed between the two main political parties – the governing Patriotic Front and the main opposition party, the United Party for National Development.
This fresh breath of air in the political field should help encourage the electorate to get up early this morning and freely make their respective decisions in the ballot booths.
This underscores the fact that rivalry in democracy is not about physical strength but about the ability to win the support of the electorate through civility in word and deed.
In the Lusaka polls, the electorate can surely not claim that none of the candidates’ curriculum vitae are impressive enough to compel them to vote. With nine candidates in the race, Lusaka voters are spoilt for choice.
There is also no excuse for anyone to keep away because of lack of time. Today is a public holiday and every voter has an abundance of time to go to their polling stations and make their decisions through the ballot.
The cold weather notwithstanding, the voters are encouraged to get up early to vote and they would have the rest of the day to do other productive activities.
Employers in strategic sectors should also ensure that their workers are given time to go and vote. It is their right. A morning or an afternoon off duty is a fairly good compromise.
It is also known that in any contest, there are winners and losers. In politics, unfortunately, there is no draw. So there will inevitably be losers in the sense of not winning the poll, but this loss should not cause distress and anger.
The peace experienced before the elections should continue through the voting process and, most importantly, after the declaration of winners. Accept the outcome of the polls but of course if strongly aggrieved, the option of a court petition is available.
The bottom line is that elections should not divide Zambians. Rather, elections must unite Zambians in diversity. After all, we are One Zambia, One Nation.

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